John Cale
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend - John Cale

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Endless Plain of Fortune
Paris 1919
Antarctica Starts Here
Child's Christmas in Wales
Chinese Envoy
Close watch
Fear Is A Man's Best Friend
Letter from Abroad
The Jeweller
Gravel Drive

Utrecht 2005-03-31

CrossLinx Festival Utrecht, The Netherlands
Review by Marga Taris

John Cale's contribution to this Rock Meets New Music Festival started at 22.45 as always they save the best for the end - , so if you were still around you were about to witness a 25 minute solo set for which the genuine Steinway had been spacelifted from the depths of the Vredenburg onto the stage.

Enters John : "Hello Utrecht, nice to see you". In a glare of greenish and purple floodlights he sat there at the grand piano, straight and dignified like Indian Chief Joseph, neatly dressed in a fancy jacket, he had put on that cautious smile he allows outsiders, and gave us a highly inspired performance, truly exploiting his mastery of the instrument.

This set dismissed every critical thought / or doubt I had about the man since December last year. The vital flame had seemed somewhat extinguished then, in Tivoli and Paradiso, but now the `spark' that had been absent was here again. Both piano playing _and_ singing were excellent: passionate, fragile, surprising and devoted. And the perfect acoustics only added another positive sensation to those already described. It's a Godawful place, designed by some overstrained architect with a concrete complex and an octagon fascination, but one must admit that they've thought well about the acoustics.

The songs:

  1. Endless Plain of Fortune
  2. Paris 1919
  3. Antarctica Starts Here
  4. Child's Christmas in Wales
  5. Chinese Envoy
  6. Close watch

"Thank you very much. This is kind of the calm before the storm" John warned us halfway, and indeed, nothing could have been more antipode (or is that antipole) to Antarctica than the next 35 minutes of controlled pandemonium with the rather eccentric Holger Czukay & this super band. Phew, a bold, and dangerous experiment I have to say, but hey... "Genie Oblige".

This part of the concert was something quite outside my experience, but I intensely enjoyed it... it felt like being pumped full of adrenaline. Solid Rock!? "Listening at your own risk"... as it were. Rene, a musician friend of mine whom I ran into by chance had taken his precautions for the event; he had `inserted' his trusty ear plugs for the occasion. hahaha. Yeah, it was ear boggling, literally and metaphorically so.

And one could tell John was in a good mood, having had a lot of fun with the band prior to the concert - as he claimed. Meanwhile the grand piano had been exchanged for John's keyboard.

  1. Caravan

Spacial, transparent, clear ... haunting with those drums, Mr. Czukay's hornz and John's powerful voice. Beautiful and melodious chaos. Most of the Hobo Sapiens songs are the ultimate compositions for this lineup, I think.

  1. Fear

starts pretty modest with some handsome pianoplaying, followed by the familiar, convincing... errr `banging', then, where Chopin sets in, we hear an astonishing theme transformation provided by -out of rhythm- percussion (percussion that seems to lead a life of its own) and some nasty French horn. The end is an ascent into sheer noise... hmmmm, or sheer madness if you like. The launching of the next Challenger at Cape Canaveral perhaps?

  1. Letter from Abroad

it has this contageous, addictive riff/beat that repeatedly bursts into paroxysms of brutal noises. Love it. This very execution of the song reminds me of the old Prince and his NPG jam sessions... sorry, can't help it.

  1. The Jeweller

words, enveloped in otherworldly sounds. John tells the story while Andy's or Terrie's ( is anyone able to tell them apart?) guitar gently scratches the stage floor; the synthesizer-thing, and the dark drums help create an unsettling ominous atmosphere. Everybody on stage is doing his own particular thing. Brilliant in its weirdness.

  1. Gravel Drive

now here's a delicate little song, irresistably charming, a demonstration of the beauty of simplicity. The Calm after the Storm.........

No encores of course, but then what could he have possibly done after this??

The band comprised... (from what I understood) :
Organ: Dominique...
Bass: Colin McClean according to the booklet, but JC mumbled something like `Moreno' or Paul Reno??
Drums: Michael ....
Guitars: the twins Andy & Terrie from The Ex
Synthesizer or whatever & French horn: Holger Czukay
Now what was it that David Dramm played? Guitar?
Keyboard & vocals: John Cale
Somebody please correct me where I am wrong.

© 1999- Hans Werksman